Thursday, June 19, 2008

Burka Light


For those who thought that the phenomenon of Burka clad women had passed from the scene, consider now its newest incarnation: Burka Light. It's all the rage in Bat Ayin and its attraction is growing. Women (including unmarried girls) now cover their hair and wrap their hair-coverings around their necks. (This is similar to Muslim practice, making it more difficult to tell who's who.) It's called the 'Ben Ish Hai Look' or 'Shitat Ben Ish Hai.'

Since it's all about modesty, I can't post a picture here. I did find a picture from the 19th century that gives you an idea of what is involved, here. (BTW, it is possible to pull up the scarf to cover the bottom part of the face.)

12 comments:

Isaac Balbin said...

Could it be that the motivation is halachic in the sense that there is a din that if the Goyim adopt a more stringent level of Tznius, that Jews have to also adopt it? I recall reading this in a Tshuva which discussed why in times gone by, unmarried girls wore head coverings when they went to Church and as a result unmarried Jewish girls had to do so in Shule. Alas, I don't remember where I read it. I have a feeling it was either from Rav Waldenberg or from Rav Ovadya ... but I can't be sure. It may have been a more primary source.

Anonymous said...

I saw a picture of my great-great grandmother in Hungary probably from the early 20th century dressed like that.

Ben Bayit said...

I don't think she looks any more ridiculous than women wearing half-sheitels fronted by big bands do.
Or for that matter the big, wierd looking african style turban head coverings popular in certain settler and/or French speaking circles.

Snoods - popular with the frum YU crowd - are also pretty silly looking.

Requiring head covering in this day and age is an inherent invite to abuse and ridicule.

As pointed out by another commenter, their is a subjective aspect to the whole halacha of head covering (IIUC this was the view of RYBS whose wife didn't and daughter doesn't cover their hair) and frankly requiring any hair covering today for day-to-day (i.e beyond instances of davar shebekedusha such as kiddus, beit knesset, etc.) simply invites the fanatics to take over.

Isaac Balbin said...

Lest it be concluded that I agree with Ben Bayit that the degree of "subjectivity" extends to a Heter to be without a hair covering, I hereby state my disagreement. There are parameters within which relative standards are not determinant.

I don't particularly wish to buy into the issue of the Rav's view on the matter of Kisuy Rosh, as it seems that this is one of those matters about which there are now seemingly conflicting views. One thing I contend can possibly be inferred is that the Rav was relatively silent on this issue. Silence doesn't always mean acquiescence though. Silence may also function as a halachic device.

Ben Bayit said...

The halachic parameters of head covering for women within which relative standards are not determinant are davar shebekdusha.

Anything else is subjective. It will be very difficult to find primary sources that indicate that a sheitel or a fall are acceptable and that a veil is over-the-top.

So all I am saying that that I personally don't see the "bat ayin" look (as RJW descrtibed it) as being any more ridiculous than Erykah Badu look or the Jackie Kennedy look.

shlomo said...

ben bayit, the issue is not whether the Bat Ayin look is ridiculous. It's not even whether the Bat Ayin look is part of a progression towards the wearing of actual burkas. The real issue is whether in the future people will feel pressured to wear those actual burkas and their religiousness delegitimized if they do not.

Anonymous said...

"their is a subjective aspect to the whole halacha of head covering (IIUC this was the view of RYBS whose wife didn't and daughter doesn't cover their hair) and frankly requiring any hair covering today for day-to-day (i.e beyond instances of davar shebekedusha such as kiddus, beit knesset, etc.) simply invites the fanatics to take over."

It's funny that you love to quote RYBS as a daat yachid on hair covering issues, while being equally eager to attack him and his students on issues of politics, the military, and the land of Israel! There is a certain inconsistency there, no?

Ben Bayit said...

"The real issue is whether in the future people will feel pressured to wear those actual burkas and their religiousness delegitimized if they do not."

why is "pressure" to wear sheitels/snoods/falls/straw hats and being deligitimized for not doing so any less problematic? I can't place my daughter in the school I'd like to have her go to, which offers a strong torani education and is the type of education I wish to give my children, b/c my wife won't cover her hair. My wife feels that most hair coverings today are ridiculous and have nothing to do with tzniut. Why should this affect how my children are educated? and why is this any more legitimate than the burka/veil people are doing.

Regarding the claim I "attack" RYBS - that is simply not true. On this particular topic, there were many lithuanian roshei yeshiva whose wives did not cover their hair. On the issue of politics, it is my feeling (and I think the baal achsanya here would agree to some extent as he has alreadyu written) that some of his students have distorted his teachings on these political issues and/or taken them in directions he probably wouldn't have.
I would add - in relation to my most recent post on my blog - that one of the major arguments for exposing people to those rabbis who have different political views is the importance of being exposed to their "educational message" which is important in and of itself. This is the raison d'etre for example of the new biography of Yehuda Amital - and this by the author's own admission. So I see nothing wrong with quoting or relating to the teaching of Rabbis whose political ideology I vehemently disgaree with. This is what is expected of me by those who would be propagating their educational message and this is - I believe - an intellectually honest approach. Suggesting that I should ignore the views of Rabbi X or Y b/c I don't agree with their political views is a haredi approach that I firmly reject.

I also come from good Kotzker chassidic stock I take the Emett from where I can find it. If you read the recently published articles on Shmuel Haim Landau the founder of HaPoel HaMizrachi and how he vehemently disgagreed with certain modern orthodox and religious zionist rabbis you will see that it is in our Kotzker chossid blood. There is nothing we can do about it - we search for Emett Le'amitto.

Baruch said...

I was always a big fan of hats, but I suppose that's tough standard these days...

JLan said...

"My wife feels that most hair coverings today are ridiculous and have nothing to do with tzniut."

Hair coverings don't have anything to do with tzniut. If they did then unmarried women would wear head coverings as well.

R' Y. H. Henkin does a pretty good job of discussing the issue overall in his recent "Understanding Tzniut," though he doesn't deal with the burka/burka light issue.

Anonymous said...

"My wife feels that most hair coverings today are ridiculous and have nothing to do with tzniut."

Her feelings are irrelevant when the halacha according to nearly all poskim (probably including hers, if she has one) is that hair coverings are necessary, whether or not they are "ridiculous".

"Regarding the claim I "attack" RYBS - that is simply not true."

Alright. But you do pick and choose opinions from different authorities whenever it suits you. That's what I was trying to say, I don't really care whether you express hostility towards anyone in particular.

"I take the Emett from where I can find it."

More like, you take the convenience from wherever you find it.

If you can name me a current posek whose views on politics and society align with yours and who thinks there is no need for women to cover their hair these days, then I'll take back everything I said. But I suspect there is no such posek.

Anonymous said...

jlan:

A requirement for women's hair covering exists, whether or not tzniut (however defined) is the reason for it.

I do not have R' Henkin's book but I do have the Tradition article it is based on. The article does not mention a single source permitting married women to be in public without some form of hair covering.